Kerstin Tennberg wasn’t sure what the three guys in yellow shirts wanted when they knocked on the door of her Koloa home Saturday.
Turned out, they didn’t want anything.
Instead, they came to give her more than $500 in gift cards.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “Having these guys show up with these kind of donations is amazing. Every little bit helps.”
Tennberg’s home on Waihohonou Road was one of many in Koloa damaged in last year’s flooding following biblical rainfall in mid-April.
To help with the continued recovery, the Rotary Club of Poipu Beach raised nearly $6,000 for gift cards redeemable at Hardware Hawaii, and presented them to 12 Koloa residents, also Red Cross clients, whose homes suffered major damage.
Four Rotarians, joined by American Red Cross Kauai Director Padraic Gallagher, visited several of the homes on a sunny weekend morning to distribute the cards.
Rick Golba, club president, said they partnered with Hardware Hawaii and Sheraton Kauai Resort on the project.
The Rotarians presented $484 in gift cards, while Hardware Hawaii chipped in $20 gift cards.
“It’s been over a year but people still need help,” he said.
The first home on Aloha Place they stopped at, Crispin Rabaino opened the door. He seemed stunned when the group explained they were there to give him gift cards, and put his hand to his face in disbelief. He smiled and shook his head.
“Thank you so much,” he said.
For a few minutes, Golba and Rotarians Ted Faigle, Ron Mabry and Donna Owen talked about the flood and how Rabaino has been doing since.
Cleaning and restoring went well, he said, but there is more to do, so the gift cards will help.
“So far we are able to do it,” he said.
A little farther down the street, the group walked up to Glenn Santos standing outside his home that was flooded. His wife, Leilani, came out and joined them.
“Thank you again for all you guys do,” Glenn Santos said.
The water came from the front and the back of their home, Leilani Santos said.
Their street was filled with water, so much that cars were covered and furniture was floating and people were in boats.
Glenn Santos was photographed on April 15, 2018, in water up to his waist, making sure his dogs were safe on a paddleboard.
Here is how the Rev. Rick Bundschuh of Kauai Christian Fellowship described that day in an article he wrote that was published in TGI:
“For the unsuspecting residents of Aloha Place and Waihohonu Road, two small neighborhoods on the far east side of Koloa, their location in the junction of two streams, one from flowing Kahili and one from the Waita Reservoir, would suddenly become our local catastrophe.
“Rainwaters from the interior had been swelling the streams surrounding the neighborhood all morning, and by midafternoon a surge coming from the interior overflowed their banks, quickly filling the two-block area like a swimming pool of brown, dank water.
“Most people in the community had no warning and therefore no time to prepare or escape as floodwaters rose over waist deep in many homes and their parked vehicles filled.”
Glenn and Leilani Santos stayed with relatives for seven weeks while repairing the inside of their 1940s home. While the interior is finished, the exterior still needs to be restored.
“Some odds and ends to do, but it will get done, eventually, as long as we’re back in the house,” Leilani Santos said.
Both Glenn and Leilani Santos appreciated the gift cards and the efforts of the Rotary Club and others.
“It’s awesome and great,” Leilani Santos said.
“They went out of their way to help the community,” Glenn Santos said.
They recalled that members of the Rotary Club and the Red Cross responded to Aloha Place the day of the flood.
“Some of them were there, and they’re still here,” Glenn Santos said.
“Totally means a lot,” Leilani Santos said.
Glenn Santos was born and raised in Koloa.
Aloha Place is normally peaceful and quiet, where kids play basketball in the street and neighbors wave to each other.
The floodwater stunned everyone when it rose quickly and with no warning.
Leilani Santos said while the physical recovery is almost done, memories of the great flood remain.
“When it rains hard, I stay awake at night and I get nervous,” Leilani Santos told the Rotarians.
Gallagher said recovery from something like the flooding that day is long-term and, as time passes and things return to normal, people tend to move on and forget there are still those dealing with the aftermath.
That’s why the distribution of the gift cards was what he called “perfect timing.”
One woman on Saturday who received the gift cards said she still needed a back door that was ruined in the flood.
Tennberg recalled that the day of the flood seemed quiet. Then, she heard something and looked outside and saw water filling the street and advancing on her home.
While insurance covered the structural damage, she and her brother Carl lost many personal belongings.
But what she remembered most was how the community rallied to rebuild, repair and stand alongside each other.
The Rotarians showing up with gift cards, Tennberg said, was a continuation of all the kindness and generosity that came to those on Waihohonou Road and Aloha Place after the flooding.
“It was wonderful how everyone came together then and still are today,” she said.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.